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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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It’s All in Your Head

Thinking Jewish

Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90.

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“And the messengers returned to Jacob and said: We have come to your brother, to Esau and he is also coming to meet you and four hundred men are with him. And Jacob was very frightened and he was distressed and he divided the people that were with him and the sheep and the cattle and the camels to two camps.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, Genesis 32:7-8)

 

“And he was very frightened and he was distressed.” Why write the same thing twice? We understand that Jacob was frightened, we understand that he was feeling pressured. Why re-emphasize this as two separate issues?

 

There are many answers given to this question. But one Chassidic commentary captured my eye. “And he was distressed -” because he was frightened. Jacob naturally reacted toward Esau with fear. But immediately afterwards, he felt great sorrow for having felt fear.

 

When we moved to the Shomron, the Arab uprising was in its first year. To protect their car windows from being smashed by rocks, many of our neighbors attached metal “cages” to their windshields. Their cars resembled a sorry version of a zoo on wheels.

 

I took a different tack. I began driving on the roads slowly, with my windows open and an Israeli flag flying proudly from my car. I was the victim of far fewer rock attacks than my neighbors, who would fearfully speed through the Arab villages. When the flag got torn and had to be removed from our car, my wife was afraid to drive!

 

Much water has flowed since then under the bridges of Judea and Samaria. An Israeli flag no longer conveys pride and ownership – it may possibly even convey the opposite. But the lesson remains the same. A person is where his thoughts are. If you feel that you belong in Israel and that this Land is yours, then you are not afraid. Your internal world projects to your surroundings, reflecting as a world that is, indeed, not dangerous.

 

Israelis today do not feel that they belong in their land. They are encased in state-of-the-art protective defense systems, but are suffering from the worst case of existential doubt they have ever had. Their internal perceptions create the external threat. That is why the solution has to be – first and foremost – to change Israel’s mentality and consciousness.

 

It all begins and ends in the world we create inside our heads and hearts.

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